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What is whiplash?

What is whiplash injury?

It is characterized by severe neck pain accompanied by varying symptoms as a result of indirect trauma. It happens when the head and neck suddenly jerks backwards and then forward. It commonly occurs in a rear-end collision, but it can also happen when a person dives and hits the water the wrong way. Others also report having whiplash injury through bungee jumping and falls.

History and Facts

In the past, whiplash is commonly known as “railroad spine”, as it is sustained from train collision. The very first severe neck pain was reported in 1919 and is believed to be whiplash.

In United Kingdom, whiplash accounts for 76% of injuries reported to insurance companies. That totals to 430,000 people who’ve made claims for insurance due to whiplash injury in 1997 alone.


So how do medical practitioners diagnose whiplash injury? After an accident, the patient should be taken to the doctor immediately. Collar brace can be put on the neck to prevent further injuries. The neck and its functions should be carefully inspected to rule out any medical emergencies. Radiologic studies should be done such as x-ray. If the x-ray comes out fine, the patient can be sent home with the cervical collar still on for support.

Remember that the symptoms of whiplash usually arise within the first week after injury, but not necessarily on the first day. The patient might complain of pain or severe headaches after getting home. If this should happen, further diagnostics should be done such as MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. This provides a better view of the structures in the neck. Wearing of anything metal is strictly prohibited for it might cause injuries to the patient. Also, the following might not permit a person for MRI:

  • tattoos with metal-based ink
  • pacemaker, and
  • skeletal brace, pins or fixations.

The Manifestations

Most whiplash signs and symptoms surface within the first day after an accident. One should be at close watch for the first 24 hours, for this is crucial to the immediate diagnosis of a whiplash injury.

Whiplash — Symptoms and Management

Patients most commonly complain of neck and shoulder pain and stiffness, headache accompanied by dizziness, jaw pain and ringing in the ears or tinnitus. Sometimes, the pain radiates up to the arms and back.

The initial intervention is to immobilize the affected area using a cervical collar. Then, these mild symptoms are often remedied by an ice pack over the neck area and the intake of pain relievers. The pain and stiffness usually resolves in a week. However, some conditions persist over a week and complications develop.

The severe symptoms include chronic neck and shoulder pain, stress, feelings


Even though whiplash can still occur when travelling at a speed of 15 miles per hour, the wearing of seatbelt should not be forgone. Though it may not completely prevent the accident from taking place, it can potentially lessen the extent of injury. Next is to exercise caution when participating in activities such as bungee jumping or diving. Follow instructions and wear appropriate gear to prevent accidents. Also, be wary of rollercoasters and other fast rides for they are also culprits in bringing about this painful, painful neck condition.

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